Celebrating youth resilience in Southwest Colorado

Elisia Cruz, Serifina Chakee, Cyrus Naranjo and Andre Bluestar-Baker proudly stand in front of the finished mural. An official unveiling will be held in Southern Ute Behavioral Health Building, Thursday, June 24 between noon - 2 p.m.
Front to back: Cyrus Naranjo, Vincent Naranjo, Elisia Cruz and John James Knight apply the first layers of color to the mural.
Vincent Naranjo, with a steady hand, paints the lettering portion of the mural “Healthy Minds, Healthy Choices, Healthy Utes.”
Johnathan Judge, of Denver, sharpens the outlines of the mural. Judge is also the Director of Youth Engagement at Rise Above Colorado.
Aeden Valdez-Baker adds his own touches of earth tones to the mural.
Shayne White Thunder adds color to the mural in the new Behavioral Health Building on Tuesday, June 15.
Johnathan Judge | Rise Above Colorado
Johnathan Judge | Rise Above Colorado
Johnathan Judge | Rise Above Colorado
Johnathan Judge | Rise Above Colorado
Johnathan Judge | Rise Above Colorado
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum
Robert L. Ortiz | The Southern Ute Drum

A new five-county public art campaign kicked off in Pagosa Springs, aims to empower teens to lead a drug-free lifestyle and educate adults on teen drug use. San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is pleased to partner with Rise Above Colorado, an organization collaborating with public health leaders in five counties in Southwest Colorado to elevate youth voices and behavioral health through public art. Rise Above Colorado is a statewide drug-prevention organization providing Colorado’s teens with information, resources, and healthy lifestyle alternatives to help them choose a life free of drug abuse.

Funded through a grant provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) Office of Public Health Practice, Planning, and Local Partnerships, this is a first of its kind initiative involving teens in five Southwest Colorado counties.

The initiative works with public health departments and local partners to paint murals connected by the theme of ‘resilience’ and the ‘#IRiseAbove’ hashtag that celebrates the positive healthy choices youth make. This work coincides with Rise Above Colorado’s ‘Fill Your World with Good’ campaign, which highlights research showing that most Colorado teens aren’t using drugs and are choosing instead to embrace things like art and community building.

The campaign’s inaugural event took place in Pagosa Springs on Tuesday, June 8, in partnership with SJBPH. Followed by the remaining four counties listed here:

  • Ignacio: June 12-15 in partnership with SJBPH and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe
  • Montezuma County: June 18-21 in partnership with Montezuma County Public Health
  • Dolores County: June 22-25 in partnership with Dolores County Public Health
  • Silverton: June 28-July 1 in partnership with San Juan County Public Health

“The people that live in Southwest Colorado are incredibly resilient, whether facing challenges like drought or a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” said Adrian Uzunian, SJBPH’s Director of Public Health Innovation. “After a challenging year, we hope these murals provide an outlet for youth to interpret what resilience means to them and to give them the space to remind community members where our strength lies.”

The ominous news cycles of the last year have been hard on everyone but particularly on young people. Painting murals with the theme of resilience highlights a positive characteristic of our region and gives local teens an outlet to express themselves through art.  The content and themes that will be depicted in the murals come directly from local youth who will be active participants in the painting of each piece of art.

To learn more about Rise Above Colorado, please visit https://www.riseaboveco.org/.       Rise Above Colorado will be releasing more details about the unveiling of the murals and its ‘Fill Your World with Good’ campaign as additional community events are announced on social media (@riseaboveco).

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